Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bottlenecks and other traffic issues in Antipolo

Commuting between our home in Antipolo and my work place in Quezon City, I have noted a lot of issues on transport and traffic that needs to be attended to by the local government in coordination with other entities like the DPWH and Meralco. Here are some photos with my notes and comments.

IMG07835-20140310-1207Much of Sumulong Highway have been widened to 4 lanes but many electric posts remain in the middle of the additional lanes and pose hazards to motorists and cyclists. These posts seem to have been here for quite some time now and the paint on them gives the message that they will be here for the foreseeable future. Paint or no paint, they are road hazards and have the potential to kill people on vehicles crashing into the poles. I think this is supposed to be the responsibility of the power company (Meralco) but there needs to be a firm request and coordination coming from Antipolo City Government to finally relocate these poles.

IMG07836-20140310-1210Congestion is often caused by counter-flowing vehicles forcing their way back into the right lane (like the car in the middle of the photo) upon encountering opposing traffic. It doesn’t help that there are motorcycles splitting the lanes to make for a very crowded road.

IMG07837-20140310-1212The new but still closed Antipolo Public Market along Sumulong Highway and near the intersection with Daang Bakal (the old railroad line that’s now a road). I wonder about the trip generation potential of this complex as it is not yet operational. Meanwhile, a huge Robinsons mall (looks larger than their Magnolia property) is currently under construction just across from it and will definitely be a major traffic generator in that area. The combined traffic to be attributed to these commercial complexes will surely have a tremendous impact on Sumulong Highway and other roads in the vicinity.

IMG07838-20140310-1213Both Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue Extension carry significant truck traffic. These often cause congestion as they are slow going up to Antipolo and can block the entire road as Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Extension have some narrow sections where the shoulders could not provide enough space for other vehicles to pass the slower moving ones. In certain cases like the one in the photo above, there are electric posts in the middle of the shoulder lane.

IMG07839-20140310-1215Tricycles occupy the outer lane of Ortigas Ave. Ext./Olivares Street. Such informal and on-street terminals are illegal along national roads and yet the city tolerates them. One explanation for this is that there are informal communities along the highway on shanties built along what is supposed to be a ledge along the mountainside (shown at right in the photo). These are where tricycle drivers and their families reside. 

IMG07840-20140310-1216Tricycles from different tricycle operators and drivers associations (TODAs) seem to roam the entire city. This is contrary to the common practice in other cities and municipalities where tricycles are limited within a certain area or district that in many cases just overlap with others (e.g., UP Teachers Village-Philcoa-Krus na Ligas).

IMG07841-20140310-1218Many tricycles serve as school service. However, the observation is that most tricycles tend to be overloaded with passengers. These are usually small children so the driver probably figured that they could cram more passengers than what is legally allowed.

IMG08713-20140528-0722Sharing the road? Antipolo is very popular with cyclists and weekends bring a lot of them to the city as they come from all over via the main routes along Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Avenue (there should also be those coming from the east via the Antipolo-Teresa Road and Antipolo-Tanay Road). Most motorists are aware of these cyclists and give way to them. Most experienced cyclists are also aware of the ROW of other vehicles and so keep to the inner lanes. This mutual awareness and respect are vital to make roads safe for all. I think the only thing needed is to provide space for pedestrians as there are significant numbers of people walking, hiking or jogging along these roads.

Roads as solar dryers – Part 2

This is a continuation of an earlier post on roads being used as solar dryers. Our trip across Tarlac brought us to more of these facilities being used for agricultural purposes. The following photos are from San Jose and Mayantoc towns, which are obviously predominantly agricultural. The photos show lands devoted to agricultural as far as the eye could see and most are planted with rice.

A friend commented that something should be done to reduce if not eliminate such practices along roads. I replied that this is basically the responsibility of local government units including barangay officials who should be educated about the dangers posed to travellers as well as the deterioration in the quality of the rice as it gets compromised from the waste and grinding they get from vehicles. In terms of practicality and recognising the limitation in funds for solar dryers, roads seem to be the easier and versatile option. Basketball courts and other concreted spaces scattered around the countryside do not make sense where roads would have more use especially to address accessibility issues (e.g., farm to market roads).

Another friend commented on the earlier post that he almost had a collision with another motorcycle rider as the entire road was covered with rice being dried by farmers. I reasoned out that for rural roads with very low traffic, a single lane covered with rice could be tolerable but using the entire road width just is not right. Motorcycle can easily slip or skid along such rice-covered roads resulting in serious injuries if not fatalities. For most cases of what I’ve seen recently, the roads quality as having low traffic and rice is being dried only along one lane so we know at least that people are aware that one lane should at least be free of obstructions.

 

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IMG08479-20140520-10174 – That’s corn being dried just beside the pick-up truck in the photo.

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IMG08523-20140520-10348 – Bad practice of spreading the grains across the entire road carriageway

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The last photo is of corn kernels being dried on a basketball court.  You can see the cobs piled near the stage, which shelters what looks like sacks of corn. As I mentioned earlier, it is possible to have such basketball courts or social facilities to be used as solar dryers. Even schools grounds can be used for this purpose but only for weekends or during the summer breaks. However, it would be impractical to have basketball courts and plazas scattered all over the countryside just for this purpose especially in places where there aren’t much people in the first place. Roads still offer the more flexible use (i.e., access/FMR and solar dryer) as long as traffic is not significant. Perhaps where traffic is significant (i.e., significantly populated areas) then such “off-road” facilities should be constructed. But again, the responsibility for making sure roads are clear of agricultural products would fall unto the LGUs.

Roads as solar dryers – Part 1

We are currently undertaking a project for the Province of Tarlac that looks into the safety along its rural roads (both national and provincial roads) including those providing access to tourism areas in the province. Along many rural roads are agricultural lands producing rice, corn, fruits, vegetables and other products. Often, travellers will encounter roads that serve another purpose other than transport – as solar dryers. Before rice is milled, it needs to be dried first so that it would be easier to remove the husk (i.e., separate the bigas from the ipa – together they are called palay). While it is possible to do this drying on mats (banig) spread over the land/soil this takes time. Meanwhile, portland cement concrete roads offer what seems to be the perfect surface for drying. As such, certain roads have been known to get justification for concreting despite low traffic volumes as they double as solar dryers. There are similar cases for basketball courts or village plazas receiving funding for concreting for the same reasons. Obviously, laying out rice on the roads have implications on the quality of the rice later on as vehicles will inevitably (even inadvertently) pass through the roads. I guess its even worse in cases when the road surface is of asphalt concrete. Following are photos I took along rural roads in Bamban, Capas and San Jose towns of Tarlac.

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Other items that are usually dried on the roads include tingting (the stems of coconut leaves that are used to make brooms – walis tingting) barbecue and fish ball sticks. I have also seen fish being dried on the road one time during a trip to Northern Luzon. Obviously, among the risks are the rice being grinded by the tires of vehicles (resulting in durog na bigas more suitable for porridge), fuel or oil compromising the rice, and the prospects of animals doing their thing on the road near or on the rice!

More on these solar dryers in the next post!

Hang time

Traveling to the office one morning, I spotted a jeepney overloaded with passengers. Many were already hanging on to the jeepney at the rear and I could count eight people including 6 who were practically dangling from the jeepney. Such behaviour is common among males who do this just so they could get a ride to their workplaces. But this is also common among students who, with their bags (usually backpacks) face even greater risks when they hang on at the rear of jeepneys. This is actually illegal but poor traffic enforcement combined with the inadequacies of public transport force a lot of people to make sabit (hang-on) to the jeepney. Granted that some of these people have no intention of paying their fares but there is a real danger of lost lives if not serious injuries if one falls off the vehicles.

2014-05-26 08.10.51Eight passengers hanging on to a jeepney as it is stopped at an intersection. Note the ones with backpacks that add to the degree of difficulty for this practice just to get a ride to work or school.

2014-05-26 08.11.58The same jeepney with all 8 passengers dangling as the vehicle speeds up along Marcos Highway in Antipolo. These sabit passengers are actually lucky that their driver is not so reckless (e.g., changing lanes so often, making abrupt movements).

This practice is among a host of seemingly small but important items that can easily be addressed with strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. Prompt and timely apprehension and penalties will go a long way into influencing behaviour change among both drivers and passengers. I think the basic idea going on in the minds of both parties is that despite the practice, there’s seldom an incident when a passenger falls off from the jeepney. Such should not be the case and an acceptable reason if we are to prevent untoward incidents from happening, and it starts with sending a strong message through proper enforcement. Are the authorities up to the challenge though? Or is the ningas cogon attitude going to prevail all the time for such situations?

Anxious about the LRT Line 2 Extension

Among the overdue projects that have generated much attention and, quite recently, some excitement is the extension of the LRT Line 2 from the current end station at Santolan, Pasig to Masinag Junction in Antipolo. This is a 4 kilometer stretch that has been viable for quite a long time now but somehow has not been constructed for various reasons. It was among the low hanging fruits that the current administration should have picked that could have been completed and operating now if it were started sometime 2011 (i.e., factoring in the transition in government after the 2010 Presidential elections). For some reason, government officials had to get proof that there was passenger demand for the extension by considering having another study undertaken just for this purpose. As I’ve mentioned before, one only needs to observe the situation at Santolan Station and perhaps the Sta. Lucia/Robinsons Metro East area to understand just how many people will benefit from the extension to Masinag. I would even dare say that you can even justify extending the line further to Cogeo.  Following are a few photos I recently took along Marcos Highway along with some comments pertaining to the Line 2 extension construction.

2014-05-11 07.36.47Soil testing site along Marcos Highway in Pasig City – these activities preclude the designs for the superstructure, which include the elevated tracks and the stations (there will be 2) along the Line 2 extension.

2014-05-11 07.36.53Another soil test site – each location roughly correspond to the location of the columns that will be constructed to support the elevated tracks and stations.

IMG08417-20140516-1803Scenes of overloaded jeepneys should no longer be the norm once the Line 2 extension is completed. However, such would probably be common for jeepneys coming to or from the last station at Masinag. There are no other choices for people taking public transport beyond Masinag except jeepneys bound for destinations like Antipolo Simbahan, Cogeo, Tanay and Marikina. 

IMG08418-20140516-1804Pedestrian overpasses such as this relatively new one near the Filinvest East main gate would have to give way to the elevated Line 2. Another option is for this and other overpasses to be reconfigured with respect to the future line. I just hope this will be done with utmost care so we won’t have overpasses similar to those along EDSA that go above or below the elevated tracks of the MRT 3.

IMG08419-20140516-1807This overpass will like be removed to give way to the future end station of the Line 2 extension. The overpass in front of SM Masinag will have to be integrated with the station to be located in this area.

“Pwede na yan” bikeways?

The recent clamor for bicycle facilities have led to several initiatives in Metro Manila and other Philippines cities (most notable recently is Iloilo) to support the demand for cycling facilities. While Marikina City already has a network of off-street bikeways segregated from motorised traffic, there are few other examples of such facilities elsewhere. The more recent initiatives in Metro Manila involved the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) establishing bikeways in several areas along major roads in the metropolis. I say establish because the MMDA did not construct new bikeways like the ones in Marikina or Iloilo. What the agency did was to designate sidewalks and other existing paths for cycling by painting these over. Unfortunately, these so-called bikeways did not take into consideration the needs of pedestrians with whom cyclists must share this limited space. And so few people use them despite a high profile launch that brought together government officials and NGOs including cycling and mobility advocates and enthusiasts. I guess the big test was really not whether advocates and enthusiasts would really use the bikeways (Don’t count on the officials to use them. They have chauffeur-driven vehicles.). Would the regular commuter use them instead of the roads, despite the risk or dangers posed by motor vehicles?

2014-02-11 16.58.11Commuters waiting for a bus ride along EDSA with suspended bicycle racks behind them. The sidewalks along EDSA have been painted red, designating them for bicycle use. The big question now is how cyclists will interact with pedestrians given the very limited space they should be sharing.

2014-02-11 16.58.18Bicycles hanging on racks attached to the perimeter wall of an exclusive subdivision along EDSA.

2014-02-11 16.58.46Cyclist using the curb side lane of EDSA – these people run the risk of being sideswiped by buses operating along the yellow (bus) lanes of this busy thoroughfare. It is quite obvious in the photo that there is no space on the sidewalks to accommodate cyclists and even pedestrians. Column for the MRT-3 stations are right on the sidewalks and makes one wonder how this flawed design was approved in the first place. MMDA enforcers usually appear as if they are only bystanders and seem to be generally helpless when it comes to managing traffic.

2014-02-11 17.15.47Workers cycling back to their homes after a day’s work. Many people have opted to take bicycles for their daily commutes even if they have to travel long distances in order to save money that would otherwise be paid as fares for buses, jeepneys, UV Express or tricycles. Note that the cyclists use the outermost lane of the road as the sidewalks pose many obstacles including pedestrians as shown in the photo. Some cyclists though want more than a share of the sidewalk or a lane of the road for their use regarding pedestrians and motor vehicles as nuisance for them. Surely, some pedestrians also regard cyclists as nuisance to walking and would prefer to have the sidewalks for themselves.

Cycling is in a way an emancipation from motorized transport commutes, and savings translate to money they could allocate for other needs of their families. While there are raw data for family expenditures from census surveys, there are few studies and publications focused on transport. It would be  interesting to see how much a typical Filipino family spends for transport in absolute terms as well as a percentage of their total incomes. Such information would be essential for understanding the needs of travelers, especially for daily commutes for work and school (other trips include those for purposes of shopping, recreational, social and others). Long commutes are associated with higher expenses (e.g., in terms of fares or fuel costs) and reducing such costs through shorter commutes should free up money for necessities like food, housing and clothing. Ultimately, this would help solve issues relating to poverty and health, which can easily be related to commuting behavior and characteristics.

It is in that context that transport systems should be planned and implemented carefully along with the housing developments. This underlines the essence of the relationship between transport and land use that has been the topic of discussions for quite some time now that apparently, a lot of people in this country, especially officials and the private sector have chosen to ignore or apply selectively (i.e., according to their own advantage and not really for the general welfare of the public). A transport system is not cycling alone, or roads or railways alone. It is, by definition, a network, a set of interacting, integrated elements and each of these components of the system are essential for it to function well. It is the interaction and integration that are the key elements that we often forget as we advocate one transport mode over others as if they are independent from each other. They are not and we should complement rather than compete in our advocacies for transport so we can finally achieve an efficient, effective system for everyone.

Daang Bakal and Antipolo’s attractions

I recently wrote about the old railway line that used to run between Manila and Antipolo via a route passing through the town of Cainta that used what was probably the gentlest slope at the time – through what is now Valley Golf, Victoria Valley and Fairmont Subdivisions. Here are some more photos along Daang Bakal, the old Manila Rail Road line that is now a road.

IMG08002-20140417-0940Daang Bakal is a scenic route and one can only imagine how this place looked like when it was still a railway line and the areas along it were still undeveloped.

IMG08003-20140417-0941Hinulugang Taktak has been designated as a National Park and the areas along Daang Bakal at least have been preserved. Users of this road are quite limited to residents of exclusive subdivisions with gates along the road and trips generated by the Immaculate Heart Parish near the Fairmont gate. Public transportation is provided by tricycles that have a terminal at the intersection of Daang Bakal and Taktak Road.

IMG08005-20140417-0942The temporary fence that was made out of tarpaulin material is now in tatters. There is road construction work ongoing though but mainly for the access roads connecting to Pinagmisahan. The concreted area at the right side of the road in the photo seems to be for parking rather than road widening. Traffic is low along Daang Bakal and will probably not require road widening for the foreseeable future.

IMG08004-20140417-0941The main entrance and facilities for Hinulugang Taktak are still closed and there seems to be no activity to indicate that the rehabilitation project is not moving at all.